Dedicated Forest Patrols and Landscapes Worth Protecting

06 Sep 2022 - News

The forest patrol team of Bukit Belang Village Forest. ©Lestari Capital

Small local patrols protect the forest surrounding Tanjung village in Indonesia. But the villagers’ passion and dedication are not matched by sufficient funding and resources. The Rimba Collective, in partnership with People Resources and Conservation Foundation (PRCF) Indonesia, is helping patrols become professional, provide incentives for young people, and protect the rich, natural landscape surrounding them.

A passionate community 

The renowned environmental activist Wangari Maathi once said: “You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them, and you help them understand that these resources are their own, that they must protect them.”  

She would have appreciated the efforts of Bonifus Tomba, who has been part of the Bukit Belang LPHD (Village Forest Management Institution established by village regulation) forest patrol in Tanjung village for ten years. “I went every three months doing voluntary patrol,” he explains. “I did not get any incentives. I did it basically because I love the forest, and I like doing it.”

The forest patrol team of Bukit Belang Village Forest.
The forest patrol team of Bukit Belang Village Forest. ©Lestari Capital

Bonifus understands just how valuable the nature around him is. But as Maathi would recognise, he could do so much more with the right equipment, training and incentives. Now, Bonifus is one of a team of ten who visit the forest for five days every two months in return for 100,000 rupiah (USD 7) a day.  

It’s progress. But it’s not enough.  

Challenging terrain and a lack of resources 

Tanjung is a remote village, nearly two hours’ drive from Putussibau, the capital of West Kalimantan, in Indonesia. It is surrounded by 2,520 ha of Hutan Desa (village forest), 90 percent of which is protected.

The forest patrol needs professional equipment to monitor areas of challenging terrain.
The forest patrol needs professional equipment to monitor areas of challenging terrain. ©Lestari Capital

As Adus Arbillo, head of the Bukit Belang LPHD forest patrol, explains, it’s challenging terrain. “It’s still a jungle, so there’s no track. We carry a lot of stuff on our back, quite heavy by having food supply for five days, jackets to keep us warm, cooking tools, etc. This adds to the tough track we need to pass through. It usually takes one whole day for us to arrive to the lodge.” 

Adus’s team of 10 have only one GPS device, one camera with a battery, and their phones between them. They have no recharging equipment, so once the camera battery has run out, they use their phones until they run out of charge too. They also have no ‘handy talkies’ (walkie-talkies), limiting the area they can monitor. And they lack the necessary software to file robust, comparative reports. 

There are five lodges spread across the forest. But as forest team member Hendrikus Obet explains, they are too small for all ten people to live comfortably: “It is so small, we don’t have space to cook. We always cook outside the lodge. Imagine the problem we have whenever it rains, and it rains a lot here.”  

No one knows better than Adus what his team needs to help keep their beloved forest safe: “We really hope, as forest patrol team, we can get monthly income, handy talky, more cameras with more batteries, handphones, three to four GPS devices so we can safely split the team.” 

Just imagine what this dedicated team could do with the right resources.

Professionalisation and long-term protection  

The Rimba Collective builds nature positive supply chains, which means supporting local communities and protecting and restoring local landscapes. In the Tanjung village forest area, we are working with the People Resources and Conservation Foundation (PRCF) Indonesia, part of a US-based non-profit, non-government, and non-membership organisation that promotes biodiversity conservation, protection, the wise use of natural resources, and sound social and economic development. 

Together, we will strengthen the village forest management in Tanjung and restore and protect forests against human and natural threats, including forest fires. Crucially for Adus and his team, we will also provide new GPS equipment, cameras, batteries, handy talkies and monthly salaries for forest patrol workers (plus daily fees for fire patrols). Helping the patrols become more professional will be especially motivating for young people in the village, who prefer the hikes of patrol work to learning traditional handicrafts.

Effective forest management is not easy nor cheap and needs special skills, that is why collaboration between parties are very important. Having a scheme such as Rimba Collective will surely help in creating long-lasting impacts, including for Tanjung.

Imanul Huda

PRCF Indonesia Country Program Manager

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